Film Courage: We talked about text, subtext
and context. What does each item mean? Adam Skelter, Story Artist and Writer: Well
that’s a big subject. Text, subtext and context…so ultimately
it is about a character wanting something, right? Every story is about a character wanting something
and then facing a conflict to get it whether they get it or not. So when they want something they have a desire. That desire is expressed through subtext. If I want this glass of water I’m going to
take the action right? So the subtext is that you can infer I’m
thirsty or I’m looking for some sort of like physical distraction to keep my hands busy
or something like that. [Takes a drink of water and gulps]. Film Courage: And the gulping is part of that,
too. Adam: Sure. Film Courage: Maybe I’m about to confront
you on something or I’m your boss or you know whatever, I’m an ex-girlfriend…there’s
just so many things and you’re like “Gulp…what’s
she going to say to me?” Adam: Exactly. So a lot of that is about interpreting, we
are guessing what a character wants from the behaviors they are exhibiting right. Now the context is simply the worldview, the
situation they’re dealing with. So we’re sitting in a room right now and
we all have different objectives. So the context is literally just like plate
that you are serving everything on. Like visually I came up with the metaphor
of creme brulee. I just used a visual where the plate is the
context. And then you have the creme as the subtext
and the top layer that is burned and scorched (bruleed) is the text. So the idea is basically what we’re seeing
is words right? And those words are a complete contradiction
of actual intention but somehow we are interpreting those words as a kind of behavior. So most of the time when I’m writing the
last thing I do is write dialogue. That was another thing I learned from Ron
Mita. You want to be able to…well…do it however
you want. But for me I like to have the characters intentions
very clear and for the conflict that the are going to be facing very clear. And what we’re constantly trying to do…there
is this one book called CHARACTER AND VIEWPOINT where it talks about how essentially we are
all like chimpanzees in the wild and when they are in the jungle and they sense that
there is a threat, they run away. And the first thing they do (as soon as they
feel like they’re safe) the very first thing is they stop, they turn around to see where
the source of danger is so that’s when they are completely engaged. The whole chimpanzee metaphor is basically
that we are trying to interpret the things that are around us. We were are projecting what that person wants
by the way it’s behaving. So we are trying to determine whether it’s
a threat or on our side or against us (that kind of thing). So ultimately with dialogue is we are trying
to see if we can believe them. And the most interesting characters are completely
unaware of what is actually driving them. Like the whole time Indiana Jones is going
through these ridiculous hoops not really…the whole time he’s doing this we’re like
why is he taking on these, why is he being dragged by a chair just so something can make
it into a museum? Ultimately he has this stuff…it depends
on how far you want to go with Indiana Jones but ultimately he has this drive that is genuinely
emotionally upsetting to him that there would be some betrayal, some misrepresentation of
truth and that’s what’s interesting and so the whole time he is making these really
bold choices (I think he is sort of this glib, sarcastic professor, but what he’s really
doing is he’s trying to unearth the truth and he’s literally putting his body through
all this brutality because he wants the truth to be revealed. And you know that because every single choice
(whether he admits it or not) has led to toward exposing the truth for what it is. Film Courage: So which is better subtext or
context? Because we know the less you tell… Adam: That’s like saying which is better
the trigger or the bullet? Film Courage: Okay. Which is better to focus on? Because text I get. Subtext, yes I get. Because you said that when you went to take
the drink you’re thirsty or maybe you’re using it as a buffer… Adam: Subtext is an expression of the desire. And the text is…it’s only one means of
expressing that desire. Film Courage: Sure. Instead saying “I’m thirsty!” And then by doing it [picking up a glass to
drink water] it’s much more believable or I’m realizing that you’re needing that
glass for something. But then the context is where I’m just trying
to figure that out a little bit more? So the context would be… Adam: Okay so for example we will take a simple
line “Go ahead, drink it.” Right? So “Go ahead, drink it” is the text. We can add some different subtext to it. So if I say “Go ahead, drink it.” [Says it in a sinister tone] There’s a different
subtext maybe more threatening. “Go ahead! Drink it!” I’m really saying “I don’t really care
what you do.” If I say “Go ahead…drink it!” It just takes a little bit but the subtext
is totally different. Well I changed the text a little bit. So that’s text and subtext. The context is we are sitting in a bus and
I’m holding a and you’re holding poison and I’m holding your child. So now the context is extremely loaded and
the choice that you’re about to make is implicit and I’m saying “If you don’t
drink it, I’m going to your baby!” So I say “Go ahead…drink it.” So the context is the story. The context is the situation we are dealing
with. You can come up with a much better scenario
but that’s what comes off the top of my head. But the idea is the text is ironically because
writers tend to overemphasize dialogue so much the text tends to get too much importance. The most important stuff is the context and
the subtext. Because the subtext is the intention. The context is the conflict that you’re
trying to deal with (the conflict that you’re trying to deal with). So if we’re in space and we’re flying
toward the moon… Film Courage: Is this GRAVITY by the way? Adam: I don’t know? I’m just making this up as we go. If we’re flying toward the moon and we know
that the only thing that is going to save us is this little serum and it could either
boil our blood or it could save our lives and we’ve just given up and we’ve been
through this whole journey and we’re about to open the hatch and I say “Go ahead, drink
it.” Then we open the hatch, it totally changes
the whole context. So context is about the situation you’re
dealing with. The subtext is intentional. The text is the art of facts, it’s just
one intention of that desire.